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Barca president puts Valverde rumours to rest

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Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has told ESPN FC that Ernesto Valverde will remain as the club's manager next season despite reports he was set to be sacked on Tuesday.

Bartomeu explained that he "already said as much last weekend, after the Copa del Rey final" defeat to Valencia, when he said that Valverde would move into his third year with the Spanish champions after extending his contract in February.

Barca had not planned to comment on Valverde's future until after a series of internal meetings this week following a disappointing end to the season. However, they have changed tack in a bid to reduce the noise surrounding the coach's position.

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Valverde, 55, has been under extreme pressure since Saturday's cup final defeat to Valencia. His job was already under threat following the 4-3 aggregate loss to Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal earlier this month. It was the second time in as many years that Barca had surrendered a three-goal, first-leg lead in a European tie after losing to Roma in the quarterfinals in 2018.

Working in Valverde's favour, though, is the fact that he has steered Barca to back-to-back La Liga titles since taking over in 2017. He also won the Copa del Rey last season and the Spanish Super Cup at the start of this campaign.

Bartomeu excused him of the blame for the weekend's loss to Valencia and high-profile players, including Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, have publicly backed him, too.

Sources close to Bartomeu have told ESPN FC that he is not someone who rushes into decisions and that he was always keen to keep Valverde on despite pressure from elsewhere.

"The president is someone who doesn't like to rush into things and won't be influenced by others," a source said. "He won't make drastic decisions in the heat of the moment. That's not his style."

Bartomeu, whose mandate runs until 2021, had to fight with opposition inside the club. Many of the 19 board members were not aware of what was going on, but those that work within the sporting structure were up to date. Some of them were in favour of removing Valverde from his role, but none of them have the power Bartomeu has.

With Valverde on holiday outside of Spain, away from his mobile phone, the club contacted him through his wife on Tuesday. They wanted to assure him that the initial plan had not changed and they still wanted him to stay on. The coach, despite everything, has never planned to quit.

Meanwhile, as first revealed by ESPN FC, the club's hierarchy will still hold a meeting on Wednesday as they look to pick up the scraps from the losses to Liverpool and Valencia. There are big decisions to be made on signings, as well as calls to be made on which players can leave this summer.